The real stuff has an intense and unique taste, often duplicated and even toned down in the confection and perfume industries with somewhat less forceful essential oil of anise. Yet, for licorice lovers, there is no substitute. In southern Italy, for example, licorice ice cream is both a treat and a delicacy. As with the widespread use of ginger in Eastern cooking, the use of licorice calms the stomach and provides across- the- board health benefits when used in moderation.
The history of licorice is ancient and venerable. In Egypt, it was a sacred herb and every day thirst quencher, as a tea, for empires that spanned millennia. King Tut was buried with his stash of licorice, and in general it was considered a Pharaoh’s drink, used to honor the bygone spirits of rulers.
More recently, among practitioners of magick, licorice sticks are said to make fine wands.
Indeed, its folkloric and documented medicinal uses make licorice, or Glycyrrhiza glabra, a very serious candy. It has been used to treat hormonal dysfunctions, such as PMS, as well as digestive and heart ailments. Traditionally, the herb has been used to flavor cough remedies and drops. Aside from adding flavor to any given remedy, licorice can also break up mucous. It is both mildly estrogenic due to phyto-estrogenic activity and anti-inflammatory. Licorice tea is generally safe; however, the use of licorice in other ingestible forms requires caution, as it is possible to suffer serious side effects if used long term.
While this is a worry for those who may ingest large quantities of herbal licorice, its topical use in skincare comes with notes of celebration. Licorice extract is a fine organic ingredient for premium skincare products, offering safe alternatives to harsh chemical treatments. As a topical treatment, licorice retains its anti-inflammatory qualities and can treat or prevent hyperpigmentation. It is also a nontoxic alternative to bleach for treating age spots and an herb of choice for dampening the fires of rosacea. It works gradually and gently to reduce redness and swelling.
Licorice extract also makes an effective spot treatment ingredient and is useful in under-eye care products, as it both soothes and can prevent further inflammation from arising. Aloe Vera provides the perfect comforting base for licorice-infused products.
Again, history confirms this level of use for licorice. Native Americans used it poultices to soothe a variety of inflammatory injuries. Studies also reveal that licorice has antibacterial and antiviral qualities. While research is revealing these qualities, traditional medicine, and Chinese medicine in particular, has known about the many boons of licorice, at least, anecdotally, for centuries. It remains one of the prime healing herbs prescribed in Chinese healing.
Given the strong nature of licorice root, one might expect it to have an over-powering fragrance in skincare products. This, however, is not the case. The scent of licorice extract in skin-adoring synergies is very faint and pleasant, a barely perceptible sugary floral, gentle yes, like the kiss of licorice, itself.